Megan Vineberg – Editor-in-Chief
Broward College graduation was in full swing this past December just as newer students make their way across campuses in pursuit of their higher education goals in Spring.
The ceremony was held as an in-person event on Wednesday, Dec. 15 at the Hard Rock Live in Hollywood. The graduation was the first in-person ceremony held since the start of lockdown, with more than 2,000 students participating in the event.
As many as 1,898 have earned Associate of Arts degrees, 507 students completed a degree in Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science and 212 were eligible for the Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Applied Science programs. Thirty-six graduates earned a Bachelor of Science specialized in Nursing and 14 graduated from the Educator Preparation Institute.
Leading the event speeches was Peggy Johnson of Magic Leap. Johnson pursued her education in electrical engineering and has since been recognized as one of the Most Powerful Female Engineers by Business Insider. She was also awarded one of 100 women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM).
The college also had its president Gregory Adam Haile, J.D. say a few words, followed by Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Jeffrey Nasse and Gloria Fernández, Broward College Board of Trustees Chair.
Notable stories from the students and their journeys include Lauren Smith who is originally from Venezuela, and a mother of three. At the age of 40, she completed a bachelor’s degree in Exceptional Student Education (ESE) for those with neurological conditions, learning disabilities, and other unique challenges.
She was inspired by the surviving child of a set of twins she gave birth to over a decade ago. While one child survived, she is still confined to a wheelchair and needs specialized care. Having learned from her experience with her daughter, Smith is determined to help others in that same way.
Also making the most of the time from the pandemic to reevaluate is Natasha Gonsalves.
Like Smith, she is also a graduate of the bachelor’s degree program and close in age to Smith.
At 37, Gonsalves was the first in her family to graduate from the college with a bachelor’s degree in Nursing. After contracting COVID-19, Gonsalves had a near-death experience after contracting the COVID-19 virus and was hospitalized citing respiratory failure.
She has since undergone intensive physical therapy sessions but remains unable to walk without assistance. Still, she was incredibly determined to complete her degree.
Juan and Natalia Salas are a father/daughter pair both graduating from Broward College together this December. Juan is 46, earning an Associate of Science in Information Technology (IT) after having worked full-time while attending classes in the evenings. Natalia is just 21 at the time of this article being published, and she is focused on Criminology. Natalia instead chose part-time work as a martial arts instructor, opting for classes in the morning. Juan’s wife is also pursuing a degree from another institution.
The oldest BC graduate is 66, while the youngest is 12 and the College also matriculated 31 veterans.
Amira Al-Madi, a graduate of the Bachelor’s program in Education, graduated with a 4.0 GPA and is currently a second-grade teacher at Coral Springs Pre K-8. Al-Madi said the Broward College’s Teacher Education Program “does a fantastic job preparing us students for the workforce.”
“The Exceptional Student Education program (ESE) in particular prepares us to teach every type of learner. Each learner has a different need and unique learning style preference. BC’s program teaches you how to differentiate or tailor your instruction for students who may be exceptional or typically developing,” she said.
Al-Madi said her biggest takeaway from the time she spent at Broward College was “to be yourself.”
“Work hard and stick to your long-term passions and goals. Never lose sight of them. Also, do not be afraid of making mistakes or taking a long time to complete a project. Typically, I would spend hours drafting, editing, and learning from my mistakes. It is a normal part of the learning process,” she said.
She also encourages the next generation of BC students to “never give up and to ask yourself where you want to be or what your aspired career is.”
“Make a plan on how you will get there. Also, please ask for help if you need it or are struggling. Broward College has tons of available resources. Ask a professor, an academic advisor, a counselor, your classmate, or make a quick stop at the Student Life offices. Know that help is available at all times. Do not be afraid to ask,” said Al-Madi.
Mohammed Aqeel, also graduated from BC with an Associate of Science in Professional Pilot Technology. He will be continuing his education at BC in Aerospace Sciences in the Aerospace Management Track.
Aqueel, who started BC in the fall of 2020, said he “wasn’t sure that he would even graduate with a higher education degree.”
“My struggles and determination have changed the game. Nothing is more powerful than a man with a purpose. I have sacrificed my weekends, registered for extra classes, and I never took time off (not even in the summer). In challenging myself, I graduated in honors and my GPA at 4.0,” he said.
Observer Staff Writer, Khian A Reid, helped contribute to this article.